06 16 2014.

the twilight 5k: reflections & how i got here


Let’s be real here. I’ve done a 1-miler and a Color Run. This isn’t truthfully my first road race, but it is my first timed race that I signed up for of my own accord and was actually “in-shape” for.

This isn’t so much a race report – there isn’t much to tell about a 3.1-mile race. In fact, there isn’t a lot of thinking that can happen in that time either! This is my story: the progression of time that has led me to this point. Sure it’s “just a 5k” – but in the scheme of this past year, it’s a very significant milestone.

My story starts in November of 2013. Winter was closing in and though I had promised myself that I would remain active and continue to run throughout the cold season, I hadn’t been. On a whim, I asked a co-worker and long-time friend of mine if she wanted to join a spinning class with me. Hey, it was something new. I found a spin class located half-way between where she and I live so it seemed perfect. The catch: it was an all-women’s spin group. It seemed a little bit cheesy at first. Before I had even attended a single class, I had the idea in my head that it was going to be a “girls rule/girl power!” kind of experience.

Boy was I wrong.

The first session ended in January and I decided to sign up for two more classes. By chance, the instructor for the first Wednesday class couldn’t make it, so we had two of the founders of the women’s club stand in as instructors – Julie and Coreen. Ten minutes into the workout, they began to discuss the Tri For a Cure. I had heard about it in passing and, being the curious person that I am, inquired about it. And they answered. Around the room, women of all ages added their own personal insights. Every other woman in that room had participated in the tri before. Long story short – those two women pleaded such an informational and inspirational case for the triathlon that by 10:00 that night, I had entered my name into the lottery to race in the Tri For a Cure.

But I wasn’t committed. At least not in my head. There was a part of me that wanted my name to be drawn but I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that there was an even bigger part of me that didn’t. (I was terrified of the swimming leg and I had no idea where I was going to get a bike.)

The first round of names were drawn a week later. My name was not one of them. An initial wave of relief passed through me – but then I was left with an unexpected reaction – disappointment. Out of left field, here I was, disappointed that my name wasn’t drawn. It felt too easy – something a high school version of myself would accept – the “oh well, I tried” mentality.

A week before, I didn’t even know what a triathlon was, and here I was feeling let down because the opportunity had passed. It was that point that I finally accepted that I was no longer the scared young girl I used to be: the girl who never dared to try out for the school sports teams because they were too competitive for me. The girl who gave up her hobbies – like singing and playing piano – when they became too serious. I had been afraid of failing up until that moment. I can’t pinpoint the cause – but in hindsight I know that my desire to try something new, my longing to prove my strength to myself and my need to change my attitude were all more powerful than my fear of failing. At some point I had learned to trust myself and my abilities and reached out.

That’s why I love the Nelson Mandela quote that I’ve been using on my About Page – it symbolizes my transition from a cautious and scared girl to a daring and curious woman. It symbolizes the way I want to live my life from here on out.

To continue my story – my name was drawn less than a month later from the first round of waitlisted names. I was in. There was no backing down at this point. The opportunity was mine and I was going to take it.

So I signed up for the triathlon training course with the all-women’s club, I bought a wetsuit, I got a bike and I dove right in well quite literally, actually.

Week after week I showed up to swim, bike and run. I met some of the most passionate women who inspired me, a girl of half their ages, to keep going. I met some survivors who pushed themselves every day – who showed up with smiles on their faces because they realized something that I didn’t: that every day was a gift.

The Twilight 5k is an annual road race put on by the Maine Cancer Foundation. Because they recognize that fundraising can be difficult for those of us participating in the Tri For A Cure, they extended an invitation to us Tri-ers to run without having to fundraise. I jumped at the opportunity as I had never run a timed 5k before and I was curious to see how I’d do.

And I did well! I sprinted the entire time – mostly due to my competitive nature – and finished second in my age group with a time of 22:25. That was the fastest 5k I’ve ever run.

The thing that I take away from this all, though, isn’t necessarily the certificate or the medal. I’m taking away the new, inspired person that I’ve suddenly become. The Twilight 5k isn’t just a 5k. It simply isn’t just a road race. It’s a symbol – a step on this 6-month journey I’ve been on. It’s a “first,” a new experience, and a milestone for me.

In a month I’ll be swimming, biking and running my way through my first triathlon: another first. I no longer see these events as bumps in my path or disruptions to my (otherwise quiet) life. I see them as challenges that I want to face.

That’s the true takeaway here. I’m a former quitter turned into a gladiator who can’t wait to face the next task. I’ve worked hard to be able to have confidence in myself and to believe that I can survive – both mentally and physically – in this active role.

So to all of the hurdles, the shin splints, the road rash, the soggy weather and the fatigue: Bring. It. On!

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